7th October 2012
I found myself at Kielder on Sunday for the Salomon Kielder Marathon. A year ago I promised to do a marathon with a friend and this was the one he settled on. ‘Britain’s Most Beautiful.’ My main role was moral support beforehand and to serve as chauffeur for the return journey as he was convinced his legs would stop working on crossing the finish line. Quite prescient!
We headed down the night before to limit the early start but still had to be there in good time due to the logistics of parking some miles from the start area and then taking a shuttle bus. Sunday was a gorgeous day with clear blue skies, no wind and cold. Ideal conditions really.
Steve Cram was lending his support to the event and there were a couple of very upbeat blokes on the PA system getting everyone ready for the start. I searched for the pens with anticipated finish times but these didn’t exist so I shuffled forward sizing-up people to try and find a grouping that looked about my level. I eventually got a nose-bleed when I came across some blokes dressed in that European hill running gear, all Lycra, logos and headbands. I thought I should stop there and edge backwards a bit.
The hooter sounded and we shuffled forward and then broke into a run and I soon found myself quite well-up which was a concern but most people were starting off very slowly. Maybe that’s what people do in marathons but it certainly wasn’t like a Dumyat start!
The first mile was a loop involving a steep climb followed by a similarly steep descent all on tarmac. We passed through the finish line for the first time and then out onto the course around the lake which was 95% trail. Things seemed to be going okay and I was keeping at sub 7 minute miles and I settled down to life in a steady little group.
The course description mentions a few inclines. For the record, this is one of the poorest pieces of description in history. I loosely think of myself as a hill runner and even I would say the course was ‘lumpy’ with frequent steep inclines some of which included switchbacks but I suppose there were also some steep declines so stop moaning and get on with it! I found it enjoyable and a challenge but the average tarmac tapper must have wondered what was going on.
Mile 11 was a bad one. For some reason I felt less than tip top and had to fight some negative thoughts. Then mile 12 was a good one. Everything felt easy or easy at least until a chap bounded alongside and wanted to engage in a long conversation before bounding ahead at a pace I couldn’t match. What had he been doing for the first 12 miles? I passed halfway at just over 1 hour 29 minutes and kept plodding away.
The route then emerged at the dam wall and the road access swelled the on looking crowd all of whom provided great support. Back on tarmac the running seemed easy and at the far end of the wall I reached the 18 mile marker. 18 seemed quite far and I had seen the marker earlier in the day when passing in the bus heading to the start. At this first sighting I thought ‘can’t wait to get there because the finish won’t be that far away.’ Idiotic really I know because 26 -18 leaves 8 which is still quite far. Mile 19 was back on trail and another poor one where suddenly I didn’t feel that great and seemed to slow but it soon passed and my strategy of taking gels and drinking on a frequent basis throughout the race seemed to be paying off. I was passing people who were still running, I was passing people walking, I was passing people being sick!
Around mile 22 there was another very steep climb of which the course description again said nothing but when I was at the top of it I knew it was easy street to the finish and I tried to increase the pace. All that happened was that I used more energy to maintain the same pace but at least felt like I was giving it a good go.
The PA system could now be heard clearly and another couple of runners blew-up ahead of me (figuratively and not connected with the PA announcement). At last I emerged from the trees onto tarmac again and upped the pace crossing the finish in 3:09:03. I was equal 21st out of 1,295 runners. The winner was Ceri Rees in a time of 2:39:29 and Angela Mudge finished in 8th spot in 2:59:39 to claim the women’s top spot. Mudged again! I was happy with the time given relatively poor training due to injury and a lack of long runs in the lead-up.
My friend came in under the 4 hour mark and proceeded to feel sick for the next couple of hours and developed quite painful cramp which had him walking like Robocop. He was certainly glad of a driver for the way home!